Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

... edited by Barry Mishkind - the Eclectic Engineer    

Where Things Stand
... a closer look at some ongoing issues in broadcast.

                   FCC Transparency

2/17/17 - On CSPAN, Marsha Blackburn, the Chairman of the House Telecom Subcommittee, noted the FCC is due for "reauthorization," and that Congress might consider some changes in the FCC's mission and structure later this year.

2/17/17 - Only 34 of 60 Field Agents remain at the FCC offices still open around the country. While there has been some new emphasis on identifying and citing pirates (who rarely stop or even pay fines), relatively few NOIs and NALFs are being seen in recent months.

2/15/17 - The new Chairman of the House Telecom Subcommittee is asking for the FCC to restore the regional offices closed by the Wheeler Commission. Marsha Blackburn says it is important to have local offices that can handle calls and complaints.

2/8/17 - Chairman Pai said, among other things, that no longer will Staff be permitted to make "substantive edits" to matters before the Commission after "circulation."  And the
Enforcement Bureau (EB) was told to stop making Consent Decrees on matters the Commission has voted on, especially in relation to fines for violations. 

2/7/17 - The FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai has acted on two changes to enhance transparency. He accepted a suggestion from Commissioner Clyburn to issue a one-page fact sheet to summarize proposed items on FCC meetings. Also, agreed was to no longer allow Staff to make "substantive edits" to any item after circulation but before consideration at a meeting.

2/3/17 - The "New" FCC has moved quickly to rescind the rules on political ad record keeping and due diligence that were passed in the last days of the Wheeler Commission.

2/2/17 - FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has started a program to release more FCC documents to the public.

1/31/17 - The FCC has eliminated the requirement that stations keep copied of all correspondence from listeners in the station files.

1/23/17 - Ajit Pai has been named as the new Chair of the FCC by President Trump.

1/15/17 - With a new Sheriff in town, there are changes coming, almost everyone agrees.

12/15/16 - FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced today he was to step down entirely as an FCC Commissioner on January 20th after three years in the top spot at the agency. Up in the air: Jessica Rosenworcel. She lost her seat when the Senate adjourned without re-confirming her. Now, it is up to the incoming Administration whether to re-submit her name to the Senate.

12/10/16 - A political game of brinksmanship has been set up as the year ends. Chairman Tom Wheeler, in an unusual move, still has not expressed his intentions for after President Trump is in office. This has basically ended Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel's time on the FCC - and sets up a battle in the Senate for how the FCC is to be "rebuilt." Only five weeks find out!

11/22/16 - As the Wheeler Commission's time dwindles, Congress last week made sure there will not be any major (read: Controversial) changes in the next two months. HR 5982 - The Midnight Rules Relief Act - would allow incoming governments to drop any Rules passed in the final 60 days of Congress. Seeing no way out, Wheeler pulled four items off the agenda this past week.

11/22/16 - With the election of Donald Trump, the makeup of the FCC will change. Specifically Chairman Tom Wheeler must step down as the new President names a new Chairman. However, as of this date, Wheeler has not indicated if he will, as is usual, retire from the FCC and allow Jessica Ronsenworcel to be re-confirmed for her seat.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has passed HR 5982 - The Midnight Rules Relief Act - to block rules pushed through in the last 60 days of a Congress. While the Senate has not yet acted, Chairman Wheeler pulled for controver-sial items from the FCC agenda last week.

6/24/16 - Hearings are now scheduled for July 12th in the continuing effort to get the FCC to respond to Congress' concerns.

5/24/16 - For the past couple of years, the goal of Rep Greg Walden (R-OR) has been to get the FCC to be more open to the broadcast community - and specifically to publish their actions and resolve difficult issues in a timely manner. The FCC claims to be doing that - although more than a few "controversial" issues have taken more than a decade to see action. 
H.R. 2589 just passed the House of Represent-atives. Its future in the Senate is not assured.

3/22/16 - In hearings today, the FCC Chairman indicated that 20% of Enforcement Bureau activities are currently dealing with pirate operations. Questions also targeted the continued plague of robo-calls, "opening set-top cable boxes" so users could buy them, and the Spectrum Auction, scheduled for next week.

3/15/16 - Could the FCC be disbanded? While some might wish for that, Senator John Thune (R-SD) has noted that the FCC is the oldest independent agency agency in the government, last "authorized" 25 years ago. Thune's current suggestion is to reauthorize the FCC for two years - and then see how the political winds blow. Say, that sounds like a broadcasters' wish: The FCC needs to be re-authorized by Congress!
Do you think Congress will send the FCC a renewal form asking if they have violated any of the Rules since their last renewal? <gggg>  It might spark some happy dreams - or a long fight with another section of Congress (Walden's sub-committee is still out there, asking questions, too!)

3/15/16 - The new FCC Contesting Rules have gone into effect.

11/18/15 - Yet more hearings, and promised by the FCC to be more open. The House has passed several Bills to push that, including the "FCC Process Reform Act" - H.B. 2583. The Senate killed such a Bill last year. 

7/8/15 - The series of hearings (see the discussion on Field Office closings - above) this year will culminate with a July 14th hearing. The House Subcommittee may be ready to unveil the legislation it plans to submit in order to reform the FCC.

5/4/15 - FCC Chairman Wheeler has been touting that the FCC has been "More transparent than ever, more efficient, and more engaged with the public." Wheeler pointed to 1500 dormant dockets and 6000 open EB cases that have been closed. The House Committee headed by Rep. Walden (R-OR) is not so sure about that. His committee continues to press the FCC for actions that stations have been asking for.

3/26/15 - Appropriations subcommittee chair Rep. Ander Crenshaw. wants the FCC to stop making decisions based on politics. "We believe the FCC should do less with less," led Crenshaw's suggest that the House might trim the FCC's budget to have the refocus more fully on its mission rather than Net Neutrality or remodeling or moving.

On the other hand, Chairman Wheeler points out that the FCC currently "makes" money for the government and is also in process of cutting expenses for things he does not favor, like many of the field offices.

3/20/15 - During the hearing, support was heard for putting Public Files online.  Oddly, most smaller companies are opposed, mostly based on the time/effort to do it, but more than a few wondering why the FCC demands transparency from all the stations, but they cannot be bothered to communicate outward. 

On another front, Wheeler did announce a task force to deal with "legitimate process concerns," stating that fewer delegated actions have been taken than in past years.

3/19/15 - As hearings continue, the FCC Chairman continues to receive fire for the lack of transparency, according to House subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden. Walden used sports metaphors to suggest Wheeler was more interested in scoring points than running the FCC in an efficient, open manner. Walden

3/17/15 - The Chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler received a rather confrontational welcome in a series of Congressional hearings this week. At the same time, there was word that the FCC is investigating whether there was undue pressure on Wheeler in the "Net Neutrality" proceeding.

The House Telecom subcommittee chairman wants to reauthorize the FCC ... with a few changes.

2/24/15 - The House - by 411 to 0 - has passed a bill to compact eight reports by the FCC to the House Energy and Commerce Committee into one biennial report.

2/11/15 - The NAB is supporting a measure by Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) to require transparency from the FCC.

Several Congressmen and Senators have expressed unhappiness with the information and response they have gotten from the FCC, calling for hearings.

AM Improvement

2/15/17 - Among other remarks, Chairman Pai told an industry group that "under my Chairmanship, radio will not be forgotten."

2/2/17 - With the new FCC come more efforts to help stations - curiously AM Improvement still includes the FM translators as key. Today, the FCC announced relaxing of regulations to permit such translators to be within 25 miles of the AM site.

11/2/16 - With the 2nd window closed, the FCC reports 1091 applications were received to mate an FM translator to an AM station. The AM Improvement, as the FCC calls it has put an FM signal on about 1/4 of all AM stations in the US. The FCC is still processing them as fast as it can, with 95% of the first window's applications already approved.
With the end of the 250 mile moving sale, prices for translators suddenly dropped from $25k or $4million to $5k to $10k. You do not have to feel sorry for translator owners, they made a pretty good pile of cash while the waiver lasted!

10/11/16 -  Commissioner Pai has announced his support for dropping local the correspondence file. Pai also support the change of the Main Studio Rule, but sees "politics" as in the way.

9/24/16 -  The FCC has broached the issue of deregulating the Main Studio Rule. Commis-sioner O'Reilly said this past week that he would like to separate this from the rest of the AM Improvement FNPRM and get it done by year's end.

9/24/16 - $700k was the price for an FM transmitter, paid by Beasley for one in Las Vegas.

8/19/16 - BIA/Kelsey reports that as of August 15th, 1727 AM stations are using 1961 FM translators, with nearly $4 million spent on translators since the Second Window opened.

8/1/16 - Day 1 of the second Window for "AM Improvement" saw 243 applications for moving/modifying FM Translators, and 42 new applications to transfer control of a translator.

5/1/16 -  More than 600 translator moves to AM sites have been granted CPs, with over 500 already on the air.

3/24/16 - As of today, according o Commissioner Pai, over 500 Applications for FM translators have been received with some 400 approved.

1/29/16 - Let the games begin! The gate has opened on the first Window for AM stations to buy and move an FM translator up to 250 miles. Over 400 applications hit the FCC .

11/23/15 - The FCC announced the filing window dates for FM translator modification applications.
The first modification filing window will open January 29, 2016 and close on July 28, 2016 and will be open to Class C and Class D AM radio stations only. The second modification filing window will open July 29, 2016 and close on October 31, 2016 and will be open to any Class AM radio station.
Applications will be processed on a first come, first served basis. If you are on file first but a conflicting application is filed subsequent to your application, your application will get priority.  Therefore, it is important to get your application on file ASAP.

The attached Public Notice includes twelve (12) questions & answers on important topics related to this proceeding and the preparation & processing of these applications.
(Thanks Cary Tepper)

11/17/15 - A House Committee hearing contained a suggestion for AM stations: allow a station to move anywhere on the dial, not just 3 channels, to where their signal would fit.

10/23/15 - Fulfillment? A lot of what has been asked for is in the First Report and Order on AM Revitalization.

Among the key items are the end of the "Ratchet Rule," Two AM only Windows for translators, modified AM Proof rules, efficiency standards, and modified AM Protection Standards.

8/12/15 - More promises. FCC Chairman Wheeler posted "I will also recommend adoption of several proposals discussed in the 2013 AM Radio Revitalization NPRM, which we believe will further enhance the viability of the AM broadcast service, and ask about further suggested updates by way of an FNPRM and NOI."

7/9/15 - A couple of Texas Congressmen have sent a letter to the FCC asking why things are taking so long. They also want a translator window for AM stations. 

6/18/15 - Despite a lot of words, little has happened at the FCC thus far. AM owners are still hoping.... but "urgency" is not a word spoken at the Portals.

2/8/15 - Commision Chairman Tom Wheeler expressed support of the AM Revitalization, but ruled out a Window for translators for AM stations.

Commssioner Pai has made solving many of the problems facing AM stations a priority. Since then, the Commission has sought comments, but done little more than make FM translators avaliable to AM stations.













On-Line Public Files

2/7/17 -  The FCC is looking into the lack of security of boxes attached to the program line, specifically Barix boxes, and EAS boxes. Warning that securing those are a must, the FCC has told stations to be much more careful than they have been. 

10/11/16 -  Commissioner Pai has announced his support for dropping local the correspondence file. Pai also support the change of the Main Studio Rule, but sees "politics" as in the way.

6/3/16 - The Office of Management and Budget has approved the implementation of online Public Files (OPIF) for radio stations. An FCC Public Notice and upcoming (June 13th) web presentation aim to answer questions.

5/13/16 - The FCC has issued its Public Notice, requiring most stations in the Top 50 markets to begin placing their Public Information Files on-line on the FCC Server by June 24th.  All current materials much be uploaded after that time, with older materials uloaded by December 24th. A demo page gives a preview of the OPIF (Online Public Information File). The FCC is also re-arranging their online database, said to be improved, to replace what has been done by TV stations thus far.

It appears that the paper Public File will be done away with - and no longer required locally.

1/29/16 - The FCC has now mandated all stationns in the Top 50 markets with more than 5 employees to put their Public File information on the FCC website. Smaller markets and non-comms get a reprieve of two years to indefinite.

2/23/14 - The FCC released a Public Notice reminding people of the publication of the NPRM.

2/13/14 - The FCC has published the proposal for putting radio station Public Files on the Internet. Comments are by March 16th, with Reply Comments due by April 14, 2015.

2/5/15 - The NAB has pulled out of a lawsuit to stop putting Public Files on the Internet

The FCC mandated that TV stations put their Public Information Files on the Internet. The current NPRM seeks to do the same for radio stations. Some delay/exemption has been proposed for NCEFM stations and or the smallest stations.


EAS Part 11 rewrite

Stand by for the promised rewrite "real soon now" since 2011

12/15/16 - All EAS changes proposed in the recent Report and Order were put on hold as the Wheeler Commission comes down to its final weeks. The FCC agenda item for EAS that was to be voted on this date, was pulled, and will likely be reworked before put back on the agenda.

12/1/16 - The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (“MMTC”) has sued to require stations to make an arrangement to translate alerts into other languages. The NAB has joined the FCC in opposition to this plan. 

9/27/16 -  The FCC denied the Gorman-Redlich request for wavier. (With one day to spare before the National NPT.)

8/1/16 -  Gorman-Redlich filed a request for a wavier of the FCC's Ruies on EAS to permit older EAS boxes to continue to be used, even if they do not recognize 000000.

6/28/16 -  The ETRS (EAS Test Reporting System) site is now alive. Some assistance in finding and  understanding the Forms is located here. All stations must register by August 26th, in preparation for reporting on the NPT scheduled for September 28th.

3/24/16 -  The EAS NPRM was published in the Federal Register this morning. Comments are due on or before May 9, 2016 and reply comments are due on or before June 7, 2016.

1/29/16 - The FCC released its latest EAS NPRM, about 100 pages of not really fixing Part 11 - and not really understanding the changes needed to ensure reliable emergency alerting during a local disaster.

June 2015 - Sixth Report and Order. The Commission ventures that 000000 should be "all of USA" and NPT for periodic testing - assuming there is ever periodic testing. The FCC also wants to require stations to report on tests to their website.  And then there are pandering items, like demanding stations run audio to match any text crawl.

January 2012 - Fifth Report and Order promises action shortly, once the FCC and the FEMA get together and coordinate.

August 2011 - Comment period ends

June 2011 - The FCC solicits Comments on changes in Part 11 (EAS) in an NPRM.




2/5/15 - There is dissent in abundance on the the state of broadband and Wheeler's proposals. Today's FCC news includes;

1/29/15 - As expected, during the FCC's Open Meeting, the Commission has now defined "broadband" as 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up. The previous standard of 4 Mbps had only been in force for four years. Still, the US is not among the leading countries in terms of broadband speed, nor in economical pricing.

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Municipal Wireless Internet

5/18/15 - The State of North Carolina has filed suit in the US Court of Appeals (Fourth Circuit) to overturn the FCC's decision to pre-empt state laws limiting the buildout of municipal broadband systems.

2/26/15 - Vote: the FCC voted 3-2 to overturn state laws preventing municipalities from building their own wireless networks.

2/4/15 - The FCC is moving to vote on provisions to negate laws in Tennessee and North Carolina, which currently prevent cities from owning and operating Internat access.  


Net Neutrality

2/8/17 - Chairman Pai has noted his approval of reversing former Chairman Wheeler's Net Neutrality stance. Stating that market must determine the direction, Pai sees no trouble with the "zero data" rates for some cell services, if using their services, and has closed  investigations into the matter.

1/15/17 - Reports are circulating that the new Administration may wish to walk back some of what Chairman Wheeler put in place.

6/15/16 - And over the past year, all sorts of lawsuits have been filed, including some that knocked down the FCC's authority over the Internet. This week we saw one that has settled - temporarily at least - by the US Court of Appeals this week. Affirming the FCC's right to regulate the Internet service providers, the Court said no one is to be "favored."

6/22/15 - And it didn't take that long. TWC is named as the subject of a Net Neutrality complaint over peering.

6/16/15 - A hosting ISP is threatening to sue Time-Warner Cable over interconnections fees. The first action under the Net Neutrality rules says access to end-users should be "settlement-free" with "open peering." The cable company says they are not doing anything wrong. Watch for lawyers!

6/12/15 - The US Court of Appeals turned down appeals to block the Title II status of the FCC's Net Neutrality rule. They are due to be implemented as scheduled.

5/14/15 - The US Court of Appeals has been mulling  the Title II status of the FCC's Net Neutrality rules. This week it told the FCC to explain next week why the court should not put a "hold" on the changes, due to be implemented on June 12th.

5/4/15 - Two petitions have been sent to the FCC asking for susupention of the new Net Neutrality rules. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the American Cable Association had one petition, and CTIA-The Wireless Association and USTelecom filed the other.

4/24/15 - Eight lawsuits have now been filed in Federal Vircuit Courts, seeking to dislodge the FCC's new Net Neutrality rules.

3/19/15 - Under grilling from the Senate and House, Wheeler denied that his Net Neturality stance was dictated by the White House.

3/12/15 - The FCC released the REPORT AND ORDER ON REMAND, DECLARATORY RULING, AND ORDER for the Net Neutrality proceeding. You can get all 400 pages here.

3/5/15 - The House Republicans have introduced a Bill to block the FCC's action. (If you are surprised, please report to the pie throwing contest area.)

2/26/15 - The vote was 3 to 2, approving Chairman Wheeler's plan.

2/25/15 - The Republican members of the FCC has asked for a delay ... so that the public can have 30 days to read the 332 pages of proposed rules. So far the Chairman expects to vote on Thursday 26th.

2/25/15 - The NRB has stated opposition to the Title II moves by the FCC.

2/24/15 - The President of the NCTA (National Cable and Telecommunications Association), Michael Powell, has predicted that if the FCC passes Net Neutrality rules, they will be tied up in court for two to five years.

2/23/15 - And into the political arena goes the Net Neutrality issue: Hillary Clinton has expressed support for Chairman Wheeler's move to regulate the Internet as a utility.

2/18/15 - FCC Commissioner Pai, in an op ed in the Chicago Tribune stated his opposition to the current plan to reclassify ISPs as Type II carriers, saying it would lead to the FCC trhying to micromanage the Internet.

2/4/15 - In an about-face, FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler has given in to President Obama's vision and scheduled a vote later this month to reclassify ISPs as common carrier utilities under Title II, which relates to regulations for Common Carriers. This is supposed to prevent "Fast Lane Profiteering."   Wheeler explains his idea here. for what he calls the "Open Internet."

Most predict this will move to the courts.

An interesting analysis of where things could go from here.

11/11/14 - The Net Neutrality issue got another "push" this week as President Obama has asked the FCC to reclassify Internet operations as Title II - utility/common carrier -  which would "preserve basic principles of openness, fairness and freedom" under government control. FCC Chairman Wheeler is only partially on board, while others, including Senator Cruz, think more government control is not going to be good for users.

10/24/14 - Think Net Neutrality is a minor issue? Over 6.4 million (yes, million) Comments and Reply Comments. The FCC is even asking others to read them and help with summaries and analysis.

6/3/14 - John Oliver did a 13 minute rant on Net Neutrailty on his HBO program Last Week Tonight this week, including a line about how trusting the new FCC Chairman was "the equivalent of needing a baby sitter and hiring a dingo." Oliver encouraged viewers to take advantage of the FCC Comment system ( Apparently more than a few did (millions, actually), as the page crashed. Want more information? Click here. The FCC announced their site crashed due to a web-based database attack on the 17-year-old commenting system.



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